Insider's Guide to the World of Shredders

Insider's Guide to the World of Shredders


One of the largest challenges companies face in today's business landscape is the proactive safeguarding of sensitive client data, financial information, health records, and more. Your customers are entrusting you with their sensitive information and any external breach can lead to irreparable consequences for both your clients, and your business. 

In order to regulate the protection of this data, the government has recently implemented many acts and laws that establish standards for recording and storing this data. Compliance with federal laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Gramm Leach Bliley (GLB) Act are critical to maintaining your company's stature with both your customers, and the  Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Protecting your customers and complying with federal laws are why we recommend a document shredder to anyone who deals with physical confidential documents that contain sensitive information. Read on to learn about how to choose the right shredder for your needs.

What Materials Can It Shred?

The first question to ask about any shredder is what items can it comfortably shred? Paper clips, staples, credit cards, CDs and DVDs are common items that need to be shredded, but can all cause undo wear and tear on the cutting blade if the shredder is not designed to handle them. Overtime, excess shredding of these materials on a lower grade shredder can slow productivity and cause permanent damage. It is important to ask how these types of objects will affect the longevity and productivity of the unit.

What is the shredder made of?

Learning and understanding what materials a shredder is made from is one of the most important steps in determining its durability and longevity. Many of today's shredder cutting blades are made of a black composite model that is extremely sharp and works great at first, but tends to dull quickly. If you're looking for a machine that will last, you'll want one with a steel cutting wheel and shaft, as this will be of much higher quality.

*As a quick plug, the  MBM shredders we carry are made of Solingen steel from Germany, which is used for making some of the highest-quality blades in the world.

Now back to your regularly scheduled article...

The other part you'll want to look at is the construction of the cabinet. Most of today's cabinets are made of solid wood, which will hold up well and should never cause any problems. However, if you live or work in very hot and humid conditions, you may want to consider something made of a medium density fiberboard (MDF), which is stronger and more dense. This type of wood stands up better in heat and humidity than regular wood. 

What size shredder do I need?

We typically recommend a smaller,  deskside shredder for an office of 1-5 people who shred on a moderate basis. For offices larger than this, who are shredding consistently on a daily basis, we recommend going with a larger, centralized office shredder. For large jobs and special projects, we recommend going with a high-capacity unit. These are typically the most expensive units, but are great for continuous shredding of high volume. 

Cross-cut vs. Strip-cut vs. Micro-Cut

Different types of shredders differ in the types of cuts the blades make. This directly effects how difficult it is for someone to reassemble the document. These different shredders are all made from the exact same system, but differ in the type of cutting head they have. 

  • Strip-Cut - the most common type of shredder, typically found in schools, homes, small offices and so on. These models cut the paper into straight lines, producing strips that look similar to spaghetti strands. These are the lowest level of security, but are commonly used due to the shred speed advantages they have over the other models. Our most popular shredder for example, MBM's 2604 strip-cut, has a shred capacity of 27-30 sheets, while their cross-cut models average between 14-25 sheets. This can make a huge difference when shredding large batches of paper.

  • Cross-Cut - this type of shredder turns the paper into small pieces that resemble grated cheese. It is much more secure than strip-cut shredders, and is typically required for businesses in the financial and health industries. The HIPPA laws for example, state that "For PHI in paper records, shredding, burning, pulping, or pulverizing the records so that PHI is rendered essentially unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstructed" ( This requirement is exactly the same in the GLB laws and must be met by all financial institutions. A financial institution, as defined by the FTC "applies to all businesses, regardless of size, that are “significantly engaged” in providing financial products or services. This includes, for example, check-cashing businesses, payday lenders, mortgage brokers, nonbank lenders, personal property or real estate appraisers, professional tax preparers, and courier services. The Safeguards Rule also applies to companies like credit reporting agencies and ATM operators that receive information about the customers of other financial institutions" ( To meet this standard, financial institutes and healthcare providers are required to use cross-cut shredders for disposal of all customer records. 

  • Micro-Cut - government agencies are the largest market for micro-cut shredders. These units sacrifice speed for the smallest particle-size to date. The shreddings left from this machine are near impossible to reconstruct, producing a particle-size of .8 x 5 mm (1/32 x 3/16 inches). This is the most secure way to dispose of confidential documents, but is not required for most businesses and agencies. 

  • What security level do I need?

  • Level 2 - this level of security is used to designate strip-cut shredders. You may see some manufacturers call these units level 3 security, but there is minimal to no difference between a level 2 and a level 3 shredder. Units with this level of security produce particle sizes of 4 mm (3/16 inch). As stated above, these machines are typically found in schools, small offices and homes. They are perfect for industries with minimal legal requirements, that need to shred items containing birth dates and Social Security numbers.
    • Level 4 - A Level 4 shredder produces particle sizes of 4 x 40 mm (3/16 x 1 1/2 inches). This meets the requirements outlined in the laws above for financial and health organizations.

    • Level 5 - A Level 5 shredder also classifies as a cross-cut model, but shreds the particles even smaller than a level 4. The particle sizes products from this model are 2 x 15 mm (3/32 x 5/8 inches). We recommend this to financial and health institutions who want to add even more security for their customers.

    • Level 7 - this designates the highest level of document shredding protection. This designation is only given to Micro-Cut shredders. You may see some manufacturers call these units level 6 security, but there is minimal to no difference between a level 6 and a level 7 shredder. All of the machines Monroe carries with this designation are compliant with federal privacy laws such as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), as well as approved by the National Security Agency, Central Security Service and Department of Defense for the shredding of top secret documents.

    How fast can my shredder shred?

    This question can be answered by taking a look at the shred capacity and the shred speed of the shredder. This concept can be best explained by looking at an example. 

    Let's take a look at  MBM's 4002 cross-cut. 

    The shred capacity for the Level 4 security unit is 24-26 sheets of paper at once (calculated using regular printer paper, size *8 1/2" x 11", 20 pound bond paper). This means that you can put 24-26 sheets of paper into the paper feed at one time without overtaxing the machine. This model also has a shred speed of 25 feet per minute. You then multiply the 25 feet per minute by the 26 sheet capacity to determine that this unit can shred approximately 650 sheets per minute total. This formula can be applied to any shredder to determine how quickly your shredder can shred at maximum capacity.

    Additional Considerations

  • Continuous-duty Motors - A near-requirement for larger office shredding. A continuous-duty motor avoids the issue of a cool-down period after extended use, and allows the shredder to run continuously. This enables the users to shred at maximum efficiency for long periods of time.

  • Automatic Oiling - Oiling your shredder helps keep it operating in tip-top shape and prevents the degradation of the cutting blade. We always recommend oiling your machine regularly, whether it be a deskside, centralized, or high-capacity model. If you're shredder is going to be under heavy use, you will want to consider either purchasing a unit that comes with an automatic oiler, or purchasing an attachment for the model you select. This will mitigate the risk of forgetting to oil, as well as saving you the trouble of doing so manually. If you are interested in adding an automatic oiler to your machine, please call us at 267-580-2600 for more information. 

  • Electrical Requirements - Every shredder has a different requirement for required voltage to operate the unit. High-capacity units in particular have high electrical requirements, and sometimes even require running a dedicated line for the machine. We always recommend checking these requirements before purchase.

  • Warranty - This is something you should inquire about for every large purchase you make! The warranty a company offers typically reflects their confidence in their product. Pay special attention to the warranty the company offers on their cutting blades, as this is the piece that most often dulls.

  • And there you have it! You are now a shredder purchasing expert.  If you have any further questions, please reach out to our knowledgable customer service team, who will be more than happy to assist you. They can be reached Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm EST at 267-580-2600. Happy Shopping!
    Aug 23rd 2018 Written by: Joe A. | Graphics by: Zach K. and MBM

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